ECPS Report: The Impacts of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Right-Wing Populism in Europe

Ivaldi, Giles & Zankina, Emilia (Eds). (2023). The Impacts of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Right-wing Populism in Europe. European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). March 8, 2023. Brussels.



Rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine boiled over on February 24, 2022, as Vladimir Putin launched what the Kremlin called a “special military operation” in Ukraine. This blatant attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty sent political shockwaves across the planet, upending international markets, and triggering panic throughout Ukrainian society. In the year since, the war has claimed tens of thousands of lives and caused nearly eight million Ukrainian civilians to flee the country to find shelter in the rest of Europe while devastating Ukrainian infrastructure and wrecking the country’s economy. Thus, the war in Ukraine has been a catastrophe for Ukraine and a crisis for Europe and the world.

Beyond the borders of Ukraine, the global economy has been destabilized due to the war, and economic insecurity has become widespread. The effects of the war have hit the world as a second major shock following the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening economic recovery. In addition, the war and the sanctions imposed on Russia have caused a significant increase in prices for many raw materials, energy, intermediate goods, and transportation services, particularly affecting fuel and gas costs throughout Europe. The economic and international repercussions of the Ukraine war have dramatically changed European politics. It has also affected public opinion and created new constraints and opportunities for political actors across the spectrum, both within and outside the mainstream.

This report has examined the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the state of the pan-European populist Radical Right. Such parties are generally considered admirers of Russia and Vladimir Putin’s regime, and ties between the Kremlin and the European populist Radical Right parties have grown stronger over the last decade. Because of such ties, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has presented new challenges for radical right-wing populist parties, putting many of them under strain and forcing them to adapt to the new context produced by the war.

In this report, we have asked how such parties have navigated the new context and the impact it may have had on them. Special attention has been paid to the reactions of right-wing populist parties to this war and the political and electoral consequences of the conflict for such parties. The analysis in this report includes a total of 37 populist Radical Right parties across 12 West European and 10 East European countries, plus Turkey.

By looking first at the “supply side” of radical right-wing populist politics in the context of the Ukraine war, the report has provided an in-depth examination of the diversity of such actors’ positions vis-à-vis Russia, NATO, and the EU before the war and the different arguments and rhetoric they have used to interpret the war. The report has also examined how populist Radical Right parties have sought to exploit war-related issues for electoral gain, turning to domestic socioeconomic issues or cultural and historical legacies, calling for national sovereignty while adopting anti-elite strategies against their political opponents.

Meanwhile, turning to the “demand side” of populism, the report’s country chapters have looked at how the invasion may have affected the public perception of radical right-wing populist parties and leaders, the impact the war may have had on the popularity or electoral support for those parties, and how that support fits with the public opinion at large on the war. The report has also sought to assess the invasion’s temporary and potentially permanent effects on right-wing populist politics.

While the focus of the report was primarily on right-wing populism, national experts were also invited to look at other populist parties in their country, where deemed relevant. This was the case in countries such as Italy and France, where populists of both the Left and the Right have competed with one another in recent elections, as well as countries such as Bulgaria and Slovakia, where mainstream parties traditionally have strong pro-Russian views and positions.

In sum, by looking at both the “supply” and “demand” side of radical right-wing populism in the context of the Ukraine war across 23 European countries, this cross-national analysis provides an in-depth examination of the diversity of such actors concerning their positions vis-à-vis Russia, NATO, and the EU before the war, and the different ways in which these parties have “performed” the war in Ukraine, the type of arguments and rhetoric they used, and how they may have exploited war-related issues (e.g., energy, prices, climate, and defense).




Please see the report as divided into 23 country chapters below.



By Gilles Ivaldi & Emilia Zankina


The case of the Austrian Radical Right and Russia during the war in Ukraine

By Reinhard Heinisch & Diana Hofmann


The impact of the Russia–Ukraine War on ties between the Vlaams Belang in Belgium and the Putin regime

By Teun Pauwels


Pro-Russia or anti-Russia: political dilemmas and dynamics in Bulgaria in the context of the war in Ukraine

By Emilia Zankina


The repercussions of the war in Ukraine on Croatia’s Far Right

By Vassilis Petsinis


Our people first (again)! The impact of the Russia-Ukraine War on the populist Radical Right in the Czech Republic

By Vlastimil Havlík & Alena Kluknavská


The impact of the Russia-Ukraine War on right-wing populism in Europe: The case of Denmark

By Susi Meret


The impact of the Russia-Ukraine War on right-wing populism in Estonia

By Mari-Liis Jakobson & Andres Kasekamp


The impact of the Russia–Ukraine War on right-wing populism in Finland

By Yannick Lahti & Emilia Palonen


The impact of the Russia-Ukraine War on radical right-wing populism in France

By Gilles Ivaldi


To Russia with love? German populist actors’ positions vis-a-vis the Kremlin

By Kai Arzheimer


Politicizing war: Viktor Orbán’s right-wing authoritarian populist regime and the Russian invasion of Ukraine

By Zoltán Ádám


Italy’s multiple populisms facing the Russo-Ukrainian war

By Cecilia Biancalana


The Russia-Ukraine War and right-wing populism in Latvia

By Daunis Auers


The populist Far Right in Lithuania during Russia’s war against Ukraine

By Jogilė Ulinskaitė & Rosita Garškaitė-Antonowicz


The impact of the Russia–Ukraine War on right-wing populism in Norway

By Liv Sunnercrantz


The Russia-Ukraine War and the Far Right in Portugal: Minimal impacts on the rising populist Chega party

By Afonso Biscaia & Susana Salgado


Romanian populism and transnational political mobilization

By Sorina Soare


Balancing on a pin: Serbian populists, the European Union and Russia

By Dušan Spasojević


The Russia–Ukraine War and the radicalization of political discourse in Slovakia

By Peter Učeň


The Spanish Radical Right under the shadow of the invasion of Ukraine

By Hugo Marcos-Marne


The repercussions of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the populist Radical Right in Sweden

By Niklas Bolin


Disagreement among populists in the Netherlands: The diverging rhetorical and policy positions of Dutch populist Radical Right parties following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

By Chris Nijhuis, Bertjan Verbeek & Andrej Zaslove


A foreign policy litmus test: How the war in Ukraine has fuelled populist rhetoric in Erdoğan’s Turkey

By Emre Erdoğan



By Gilles Ivaldi & Emilia Zankina



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